The Do Yo Thangs: One Plus One

Does One Plus One equal success?

- They’re chill, they’re real chill. That’s how someone recently described The Do Yo Thangs to me and, yep, that’s them. In the increasingly crowded neo-soul market, that may well be the characteristic which sets the Melbourne outfit apart more than anything else. Their five track debut, One Plus One, feels like the last, muted set of the night in the smoky jazz club.

It’s a feeling I get a bit from those LA cool kids The Internet too. Just way too relaxed to want to set the joint on fire. That isn’t quite the source of TDYT’s vibe, however, instead they trace it back to the timeless smoothness of Erykah Badu. Drummer and crooner Hugh Rabinovici and brassy jazz vocalist Audrey Powne met in the halls of their jazz school, bonded over shared, soulful obsessions and quickly collected the rest of their now seven piece band.

It was a while before they decided to lay anything down on record, but then you’ll hear they’ve worked quite a lot in there. Amongst the slow jazz and easygoing soul you’ll also hear synth and other electronics and the band liken it to a bit of Vangelis folded through their Hiatus Kaiyote. They’re fond of doing what amounts to surprise attacks: great waves of retro-futuristic synth melody, reinforced by their very able backing singers. You’ll hear a really good example of it on what is actually the EP’s most uncharacteristic song, Here Without You. It’s not neo-soul so much as ‘80s jazz fusion and sounds more like Stevie Wonder performing late Burt Bacharach. The synth surge is a neat counterpoint to Hugh’s sedate croon. I would’ve liked to hear more of this and those synth surges too.

If you’ve heard the singles, Indecisive and the EP’s title track, you’ve got the feel of the rest of the record: a more introspective and reserved take on the urban future. It does put them in different territory to the mad noodling of Thundercat or the hypercolour acrobatics of Miguel and that’s good. Still, debut EPs are -to a degree- for cracking a jar of smelling salts under the noses of your audience and the industry and yelling, ‘hey look!’ That being the case One Plus One errs on the side of caution.

There’s a confusion, a lack of direction and a need to put on the brakes: you’ll find the lyrics constantly alluding to it. Rabinovici sounds exhausted rather than relaxed, singing: “Things have stopped making sense / Broken down, quite intense / Need a space far away from here / Time to think, so my mind is clear.” Or check out Aud-rey: “I just can’t think about where I stand / And I just don’t know what to demand / And I won’t know until I can.” The chorus just repeats “indecisive, indecisive, indecisive;” uh-huh. It’s a constant theme for the EP and, I mean, I know they’re not talking about the music, but I think their feelings might be bleeding in there.

Erykah Badu herself sensed the way music was going on her last record and let a bit of that sugary, neo-soul insanity take over. If the Do Yo Thangs added four uptempo bangers to this EP they’d have a pretty perfect debut album, whatever personal turmoil they still had to sweep under the rug. One Plus One feels like an anticipation of that; really, so much anticipation. Maybe The Do Yo Thangs need to be less chill -maybe I need to chill more- who can say? One Plus One is a sum that so very nearly adds up (sorry, cheap shot), I hope they work it out.

- Chris Cobcroft.

Album Details

Album Title: One Plus One
Artist: The Do Yo Thangs
Record Label: (Hope Street)